Tag Archives: water

Managing the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge

January 20, 2018.   The following Letter to the Editor was published in the Citrus County Chronicle on this date.

Recent daily editions of the Chronicle have included inserts from the The Friends of the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge (Friends) imploring readers to write Governor Scott and Crystal River City Council members asking them to support a continued U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) lead role in managing the Three Sisters Springs property (property), rather than having the City of Crystal River (City) assume that role.  The insert states or implies that City takeover of property management would be detrimental to the manatee, and shift 100% of the cost for improving the property to the City and its taxpayers.

As a Friends member, I support their mission, but have a different take on this issue.

Last year, the Service informed the City that it would not spend additional money on property improvements without first updating the management agreement between the parties, reasserting its continued lead role.  The City then voted to terminate that agreement and assume management control of the property if a mutually acceptable agreement could not be reached in six months.  That period has passed, and a decision may be forthcoming at the January 22 City Council meeting.

Clearly, the Service and City have experienced difficulties in defining and agreeing on their shared roles, responsibilities and priorities for managing the property.  Regardless of who exercises the lead property management role (and I doubt that a City lead would result in harm to the resource), the Service will continue to maintain its presence and lead role in managing manatees as per the Endangered Species Act.  It will also continue its lead role as manager of the lands and waters contained within the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge.  The City, along with the County, will maintain its primary interest in promoting tourism.

As is often the case, key questions and decisions revolve around money.

If the Service loses its lead management role for the property, will the funding appropriated in its budget for property improvements be re-programmed to other areas, as Service personnel have suggested?  Given this Administration’s budget requests proposing large reductions for Service and other environmental programs in 2018, with similar prospects in subsequent years, how much money will remain available in future Service budgets for property improvements, not to mention refuge operations and visitor use programs?  If the City assumes the lead role in property management, and Service money is not available, how will future improvements be funded?  Can State grants be awarded?  Can county funds be obtained?

Service and City officials will need to maintain a high degree of cooperation regardless of which entity carries out the lead role in managing the Three Sisters Property.  Hopefully they can negotiate a new set of mutually acceptable roles, responsibilities and funding arrangements.  As a former Service employee and program manager, I believe an agreement can and should be reached which retains available property improvement funding regardless of lead and supporting roles.

Gary Rankel,  Citrus Hills, Florida

 

Improve the quality of Citrus county waters

November 24, 2017.  My following letter was published in the Citrus County Chronicle on this date.

Thanks to Senator Simpson, and to the Chronicle for its November 19 Opinion supporting his plan to improve the quality of county waters by removing and replacing polluting septic tanks with a modern central sewer system.

I’ve read far too many articles, commentaries and opinions praising recent misguided efforts to “save our waters” or “save our bay” by raking, harvesting, vacuuming or dredging up deposited muck and Lyngbya.  They generally fail to mention the resultant impacts of increased turbidity and the accelerated dispersal of deposited nutrients and Lyngbya to adjacent areas, thereby promoting further algae blooms and facilitating the expansion of Lyngbya infestations.

Rarely, have I seen acknowledgements that such efforts are temporary, requiring repeated cleaning, over and over again, as nutrients, notably nitrogen and phosphorus, from sewage effluent and fast-release fertilizers continue entering our aquifer and surface waters.

Many articles have gone on to applaud the planting of Rockstar vegetation in these “cleaned” areas, often not mentioning the unsightly fences needed to protect these patches from the next wave of manatees seeking a nice snack to munch on.  Seagrass and other macrophyte planting programs should be considered, but only once the causes of their demise are addressed, and conditions favoring their survival over competitive nutrient loving nuisance species are achieved.

I’ve yet to read an authoritative report confirming any lasting effect of these “clean-up” efforts, or any sustained reestablishment of the Rockstar vegetation once the fencing has been removed welcoming the manatees in to chow down.

It’s about time we abandon these quick fixes which simply address the symptoms of the problem, and redirect the millions of dollars wasted on them to tackle its root causes: nutrient overloading and retention resulting from septic tank leakage and over-fertilization.

Our elected representatives need to recognize our budget limitations and become more fiscally responsible by prioritizing cost-effective programs and actions that will make a lasting difference.  Resources are simply not available to fund everyone’s pet projects, no matter how well-intentioned.  Supporting ineffective efforts may create a few jobs and help gain a few more votes, but that’s not what good leaders do.

Ditto for half-hearted fast-release fertilizer restrictions.

Other high priority actions deserving of funding and attention to protect our waters include wetland restoration to aid in nutrient filtration and the curtailment of groundwater pumping throughout the watershed to improve spring flows and increase flushing activity.  Amendment 1 was recently approved by voters to fund just such programs.

It’s probably too late to restore Kings Bay to former Rainbow River standards, but let’s not let it become the next Indian River Lagoon or Lake Okeechobee, where nutrient overloading and resultant algae blooms have devastated once diverse ecosystems.

Hopefully, by next year’s Save our Waters Week, our leaders will be doing just that by placing their highest priority on supporting Senator Simpson’s funding proposal.

Gary Rankel
Citrus Hills, Florida